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December 15, 2010

Column #1,529

Dickens: “The Life of Our Lord”

By Mike McManus

                While he was completing “David Copperfield” in 1846-9, Charles Dickens wrote “The Life of Our Lord” for his own children, a simple retelling of the life of Jesus Christ..  Since he wrote it exclusively for his children, Dickens refused to allow its publication.

                When Dickens died in 1870, his children honored his request that the small book not be published.  However, as the last of his children, Henry Fielding Dickens, neared the end of his life, he gave permission to his wife and children to publish the small book after his death.  In 1934, the last work of Charles Dickens became available to a wider audience, and was a best-seller, 64 years after his death.

                His great, great grandson, Gerald Charles Dickens wrote an Introduction to a new edition, saying, “I picture the scene in the Dickenes’ nursery vividly.  Charley, age twelve; Mamie, eleven, Katie, ten, and Walter, eight, all listening intently as their father explains the miracles of Christ. 

                “I envision Francis, five, Alfred, four, and Sydney, two; playing happily as their father reads, changing the narrative now and then to keep their interest: `You never saw a locust, because they belong to that country near Jerusalem, which is a great way off. So do camels, but I think you have seen a camel…”

                “And then, in the corner is a baby, not even a year old, Henry Fielding Dickens.  My great-grandfather hearing, but not listening to the voice of Dickens.”

                Consider these tender opening words of the book.

“My dear children,

                “I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable as he was. ”

                Some sentences make the story jump alive for children:

                “Mary laid her pretty little boy in what is called the manger, which is the place the horses eat out of.  And there he fell asleep.”

                When Herod ordered his soldiers to kill all the children under age two, “The mothers ran up and down the streets with them in their arms, trying to save them, and hide them in caves and cellars, but it was of no use.  The soldiers killed all the children they could find. This dreadful murder was called the Murder of the Innocents, because the little children were so innocent.”

                As Jesus began to heal the sick and give sight to the blind, Dickens told the children “these wonderful and solemn things…are called Miracles of Christ. I wish you would remember that word.”

                Jesus did them “that people might know He was not a common man, and might believe what he taught them, and also believe that God had sent Him.”

                Dickens notes that Jesus chose 12 poor men to be his companions, who are called Apostles or Disciples in order that “the poor might know – always after that…that Heaven was made for them as well as for the rich…Never forget this, when you are grown up. Never be proud or unkind, my dears, to any poor man, woman or child.”

                Dickens describes Pharisees as very proud men who “believed that no people were good but themselves, and they were all afraid of Jesus Christ, because He taught the people better.”

                After recounting the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and of his jealous brother, Dickens tells his children, “By this, Our Saviour meant to teach that those who have done wrong and forgotten God, are always welcome to Him, and will always receive His mercy if they will only return to Him in sorrow for the sin of which they have been guilty.”

                At the end of the book, Dickens kindly tells his children, “They took the name of Christians form Our Savior Christ, and carried crosses as their sign, because upo n a cross He had suffered death.

                “Remember! – It is Christianity TO DO GOOD, always – even to those who do evil to us.  It is Christianity to love our neighbors as ourselves…”

              I am buying three books for my sons to read to their children.

                It truly is the perfect Christmas gift, which communicates perfectly to the new generation to “remember the life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them” so that “we may confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to  live and die in peace.”

                Amen.

                _____

Mike McManus is President of Marriage Savers, www.MarriageSavers.org.

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